Snowbirds Come Home to Roost

Toby Barlow
New York Times

Ron and Patty Cooley met and fell in love 42 years ago as students at Eastern Michigan University. After a stint at Ford in the early ’70s, they left Detroit behind, taking over her family’s modest real estate business upstate. The company prospered: for 30 years the two worked together, helping to finance, build and sell more than 1,000 homes.

With their two sons grown, Ron and Patty sold the business and semi-retired down to Naples, Fla. Ron took up golf, sometimes seven days a week, occasionally 36 holes in a day. Patty gardened. Their lives in the Sunshine State were relaxed and tranquil, the sort of serene ending that retirement brochures promise to us all. But, unsurprisingly, the collapse of the housing market had a serious impact on a couple with a nest egg tied up in real estate.

Ron and Patty looked around and did the math. Florida’s economy seemed to be declining even more steeply than the Motor City’s. In Detroit, they had roots, their sons had moved into the city and started a barbecue restaurant, grandchildren had arrived. So, weighing their options, they came back. They moved into a downtown loft, just a few blocks from the empty lot where Tiger Stadium once stood.

I first encountered Ron and Patty at an early morning fund-raiser for a neighborhood charity. Talking to them, I found that just like other new arrivals — the artists and recent college graduates coming here from other towns — they spoke of Detroit’s potential with an almost exalted optimism. Instead of depressing or slowing them down, the move has been a thrilling one and they shared examples of how exhilarating their life is downtown.

Being at the center of things means they can walk to the Avalon bakery on Saturday mornings and to the new Comerica Park for baseball games in the spring. Instead of endless golf, they now go to events like the fund-raiser where we met or lectures on design and sustainable development.

Talking about Florida, Ron sounds like someone who made it onto the lifeboat in the nick of time. Yes, they had to sell their home down there at a loss, but a former neighbor in Naples recently sold a similar house for less than half of what the Cooleys got. Ron estimates that with the nation’s battered 401(k) accounts, it could take decades before Florida returns to any sort of substantial growth.

Meanwhile, Patty and Ron are helping their sons expand their restaurant to a new location. Patty is involved in the local school system’s literacy program. Ron enjoys walking down the street to spend time with his grandchildren, the kind of time that, in his ambitious, younger days, he didn’t get to have with his own boys.

In the nation’s shared imagination, Detroit continues to be worse than a punch line — it’s an apocalyptic wasteland teetering right at the edge of the end of the world. When people hear that I live downtown, they ask, “Where do you get your groceries?” and “Where do you get your dry cleaning done?” and when I answer “Well, at the grocery store and the dry cleaners,” they simply look confused. In fact, few can imagine living a life here.

The truth is that my Detroit — and Ron and Patty’s Detroit — might no longer be a city where dreams come true the way they once did. But this story still demonstrates some important things: how lives and businesses can thrive here, how rewarding it can be to have family close and, at the very least, how nice it is that we’re not in Florida.
Gary Stoller
USA Today

Three airports in the Midwest scored the highest of all North American airports in customer satisfaction, a J.D. Power and Associates survey released Thursday says.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County was named the best large airport, Kansas City International the best midsize airport and Indianapolis International the best small airport.

The survey was based on responses from more than 12,000 passengers who flew on a round-trip flight last year. Airports were judged on six factors: accessibility, the check-in and baggage-check process, baggage claim, terminal facilities, security check, and food and retail services. It's J.D. Power's first airport survey in two years.

"Airports that rated the highest are raising the performance bar," says Stuart Greif, a J.D. Power vice president. "They exceeded the scores of the highest-rated airports in our last study two years ago."

Indianapolis airport, a new facility that opened in November 2008, received the highest satisfaction score this year — 777 on a 1,000-point scale. Kansas City scored 742 and Detroit, 705.

The combined satisfaction score for all North American airports averaged 690 — an improvement from 675 in 2008. The score, though, was considerably lower than customer satisfaction scores last year for hotels and rental cars in two other J.D. Power studies. Hotels averaged 756 and rental cars, 733.

AIRPORT GUIDES: How to navigate the top 25 US airports

This year's airport survey found that the areas that most affected passenger satisfaction are speed of baggage delivery, ease of check-in and bag check, comfort in terminals and amount of time to pass through security.

"For many passengers, basic needs such as seating comfort and ease of moving through the airport are not consistently being met," Greif says.

Passengers spend more at shops in airports with high satisfaction scores, the study also found.

Retail spending averages $14.12 for passengers disappointed with their airport experience and $20.55 for passengers delighted with their airport experience, the study says.

Passengers generally give higher satisfaction scores to smaller airports, which usually have less congestion than larger ones, Greif says.

Indianapolis airport handled 7.5 million passengers last year, compared with 31.4 million at Detroit's big airport.

Some other big airports that posted high satisfaction scores were Denver, Minneapolis and Orlando. Scoring lowest among big airports were Newark, Los Angeles and Miami.

Much of the credit for Detroit's top ranking among big airports goes to airlines and Travelers Aid volunteers, says Lester Robinson, CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates the airport.

The airlines "committed themselves" to improve on-time flight performance and luggage handling, and the volunteers "work so hard on the front line every day to help make the travel experience in Detroit as pleasant as possible," he says.
Bloomfield Hills residents Charlie White, 22 and partner Meryl Davis, 23 are competing in three events in Vancouver over the next couple of day.  In the last event, Charlie will be wearing the outfit made by my personal seamstress and Troy Resident, Marianne Balogh (see below).  

The schedule is as follows:

Fri, Feb. 19   8-11:30 PM EST: 
Figure Skating (Ice Dance) men's skiiing
Compulsory Competition - Waltz or Tango routine

Sun, Feb. 21 7-11:00 PM EST: 
Figure Skating (Ice Dance) women's speedskating, men's bobsleigh
Original Competition - Indian routine

Mon.,Feb. 22  8 PM-Midnight EST: 
Figure Skating (Ice Dance), men's freestyle skiing
Free Dance Competition - "Phantom of the Opera" routine

Be sure to watch and cheer on our U.S.A. #1 team go for the gold!

You can contact Marianne Balogh, owner of Style by Marianne at

Help a Local PR Pro Out!

Nikki Stephan

Most of us have friends or colleagues who recently lost their job. Unfortunately, job losses are extremely prevalent in our beloved mitten state. Coupled with job losses, there are many recent graduates who are struggling to find jobs.

If you’re a PR professional on Twitter, you may have seen all the recent tweets about “Help a PR Pro Out” day. I noticed there were no champions from Michigan supporting this awesome initiative, so I’ve jumped on board.

On Friday, February 19, from 10 am – 2 pm CT, PR bloggers, agency leaders and PR professionals from across the country will donate their time and talents to help fellow PR pros connect with employers as part of the first-ever HAPPO day. Here’s the breakdown from co-founder Arik Hanson (the other co-founder is Valerie Simon):

Are you a job seeker? Prepare a creative blog post, pitching yourself to prospective employers and share it via Twitter during the event on Feb. 19 using the hashtag #HAPPO. The HAPPO “market champions” will help by retweeting and connecting you with potential employers in your specific market (or markets you’re willing to relocated to).
Are you an employer looking for talent? Follow the hashtag #HAPPO on Friday, Feb. 19 and share your openings. Market champions will do their best to connect you with talent they think matches your specific needs.
Are you a PR blogger/Twitter addict? Yes? Then share the #HAPPO tweets with your personal networks and lend your support to those in need. Help your market champion identify job seekers and pair them with potential employers. This is your chance to make a difference!

If you’re looking for a job but prefer to do so offline, please contact me or one of the HAPPO champions.

HAPPO represents a chance for us all to make a difference for colleagues, former co-workers and friends looking for a job. Think of this as a “pay it forward” movement. With the help of the global PR community, we can make a significant difference for PR job seekers everywhere. Even if our efforts only help one person in Michigan find a job, I will still consider this a success, particularly because of the momentum this initiative has gained.

You can find more information and ongoing updates leading up to the February 19 event at If you’re a PR pro in Michigan (heck, even if you’re not), please consider helping to spread the word about HAPPO throughout the week. Let’s all work together to make this a success!

Image credit: HAPPO Web site

This Old House

The Villages, Detroit, Michigan

Yeah, times are tough in Detroit. Still, we can't overlook its bargain-hunter's bounty of architectural riches—just one reason we're betting on the city's survival. Although the Motor City's economy is in tatters, the people who live in The Villages, a collection of six historic neighborhoods three miles east of downtown, remain upbeat. "There's a richness in this neighborhood," says resident Kathy Beltaire. "The houses are beautiful and the streets are walkable, but the people here are the best part—they really care." These days, nice-as-can-be multigenerational families who have lived here for decades continue to welcome first-time buyers who appreciate intricate woodwork, front porches, and spacious urban yards. If you can nail down a job in this city's tough economy, your money goes a long way here.

The Houses
The Villages offers more than 17 architectural styles, from Craftsman to Richardsonian Romanesque. The largest, most elaborate homes are in Indian Village, where prominent Detroit architects Albert Kahn and William Stratton designed grand Georgian Revival and Federal Revival homes for the city's first auto barons in the early 1900s. Smaller cottages and rowhouses can be found in nearby West Village. Whatever your tastes, there are houses to be had in The Villages for less than $100,000.

Why Buy Now?
Not only will you get more house for your buck, you may just help fuel a Motor City comeback. That comeback already has a strong human foundation, thanks in part to the commitment of The Villages residents, who continue to mow the lawns and maintain the shrubs of the neighborhood's empty and foreclosed homes, anticipating they'll one day attract future neighbors.
Panera Bread of Southeast Michigan, in partnership with United Way for Southeastern Michigan, is encouraging metro Detroit residents to volunteer with their joint program called “Impact Your Neighborhood.”

The regional initiative aims to build healthier, stronger communities and runs through November 2010. Volunteers may register for individual projects by visiting

Participating Panera Bread project locations include bakery-cafes across metro Detroit. Prior to each project, the designated bakery-cafe will host a breakfast and informational session. Volunteers will also receive a complimentary T-Shirt and a Panera Bread catered lunch upon project completion.

Volunteer opportunities include:

·        Saturday, Feb. 20 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac. Up to 20 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Orion Panera Bread, located at 4804 S. Baldwin Rd. Volunteers will then travel to the Baldwin Center to assist with sorting donations.
·        Saturday, March 6 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Starfish Family Services in Inkster. Up to 20 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Panera Bread located at 26580 Ford Rd. in Dearborn Heights. Volunteers will then travel to Starfish, where they will put together storage units and paint murals for Head Start classrooms.

·        Saturday, April 24 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Solid Ground in Roseville. Up to 20 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Roseville bakery-cafe located at 31960 Gratiot Ave. Volunteers will then travel to Solid Ground, where they will build shelves and work to create a food pantry.

·        Saturday, May 8 | 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Lincoln Middle School in Warren. Up to 100 pre-registered volunteers assist with various indoor and outdoor beautification projects such as landscaping and painting murals.

·        Saturday, June 26 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Southwest Counseling Solutions in Detroit. Up to 20 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Allen Park Panera Bread, located at 3112 Fairlane Dr. Volunteers will then travel to Southwest Counseling Solutions to assist with outdoor beautification.

·        Saturday, Sept. 25 | 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Gleaners locations in Detroit, Pontiac, Warren and Taylor. Pre-registered volunteers will travel to various Gleaner’s locations where they will sort and pack food items that will be delivered to homeless shelters and other non-profits in need. Volunteers will meet at the following Panera Bread bakery-cafes at 8 a.m.:

o   Gleaners of Detroit: Grosse Pointe bakery-cafe at 17150 Kercheval Ave.
o   Gleaners of Pontiac: Waterford bakery-cafe at 5175 Highland Rd.
o   Gleaners of Warren: Sterling Heights bakery cafe at 36808 Van Dyke Ave.
o   Gleaners of Taylor: Southgate bakery-cafe at 13857 Eureka Rd.

·        Saturday, Oct. 23 | 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at LightHouse PATH in Pontiac. Up to 15 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Bloomfield Hills Panera Bread located at 2125 S. Telegraph Rd. Volunteers will then travel to LightHouse PATH, where they will participate in a Halloween reading and craft activity with mothers and their children.

·        Saturday, Nov. 13 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights. Up to 15 pre-registered volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Dearborn Panera Bread, located at 22208 Michigan Ave. Volunteers will then travel to Vista Maria to assist with indoor and outdoor beautification tasks.

For more information about volunteer opportunities or to register for a project, visit, or call (313) 226-9200. Volunteers must register to participate in a project.

In Detroit, Is There Life After the Big 3?

Pete Engardio
New York Times

Cruise the blighted streets that shoot off in either direction from 8 Mile Road, and the scars of the automotive crisis abound. “For sale” signs adorn the front of long-shuttered metal, paint and tool-and-die shops. And at factories still in business, the small number of cars in the parking lots testify that the shops are working below capacity.

But pull into the bustling headquarters of W Industries, a compound of imposing black structures at 8 Mile and Hoover Street, and you’ll encounter a more hopeful vision of Detroit’s future. Once an exclusive supplier to the auto industry, this machine tool and parts company is rolling in new business.

In one section of the cavernous shop floor, machinists use powerful lasers to slice thick steel plates. They’re making parts for Humvees and Stryker combat vehicles destined for Afghanistan and Iraq.

Elsewhere, they are assembling a 60,000-pound apparatus for testing the Orion space module by simulating the violent vibrations of liftoff. Other workers are finishing a steel mold that will be used to make 70-foot-long roof sections of Airbus A350 passenger jets.

Dozens of Michigan manufacturers like W Industries are discovering there is indeed life beyond the auto industry. Over the last two years, multinationals and start-ups alike have been coming to the state to build, buy or design a hodgepodge of products, whether aircraft parts, solar cells, or batteries for electric cars.

In September, for instance, NTR, a solar energy company from Ireland, awarded contracts to two Detroit-area auto suppliers, including the race-car engine developer McLaren Performance Technologies, to make components for thousands of SunCatcher solar dishes.

“It should be no surprise we went to Detroit,” says Jim Barry, NTR’s chief executive. “The standard of manufacturing in the automotive industry is extraordinarily high, and that is the only place you can find such a concentration of skills.”

Of course, nobody expects Michigan to regain anytime soon all of the estimated 216,000 auto-related jobs lost in the past decade. Most of the new projects create 50 to 100 jobs at a time, while auto plant closures have shed tens of thousands.

“You could bring a whole new industry in here, and it may replace one auto plant,” says David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

THE economic impact of the new industries is also hard to gauge: Michigan has few statistics on revenue from industries like clean technology and aerospace. Much of the new work, moreover, is limited to machining and developing prototypes. Mass production will most likely head elsewhere to save costs or to be closer to end customers. In short, the full payoff of the investments outside the auto industry is unlikely to be felt for several more years.

“What we really are talking about is R&D, pilot projects and early-stage production,” says Peter Adriaens, a University of Michigan entrepreneurship professor tracking the trend. “There is virtually nothing we can do to keep large-scale production here.”

Still, Mr. Cole and Mr. Adriaens say, the opportunities for auto suppliers are huge and could leave the state with a healthier, more diverse industrial base.

For example, virtually all of the $50 million in engineering projects at the Detroit campus of Ricardo Inc., a British engineering services firm, are for products like remotely piloted military aircraft, construction equipment and lithium-ion batteries. And Global Wind Systems, a developer of wind farms that is based in the Detroit suburb of Novi, says it is working with 18 local suppliers to design next-generation turbines to be assembled nearby in 2012.

General Electric, meanwhile, is investing $100 million in a 1,000-worker research and manufacturing facility for wind turbines outside Detroit, and Aernnova, a Spanish company that is a supplier to Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier, is planning an engineering center in Ann Arbor that will eventually employ 600. New plants to make lithium-ion batteries are in the pipeline from A123, Johnson Controls and LG Chemical.

“There is a lot of business out there that is really suited to Detroit’s automotive skills,” says Edward Walker, the chief executive of W Industries, a privately held company.

Among all the projects, the biggest is in Wixom, Mich., just northwest of Detroit. There, a mothballed Ford plant that had turned out millions of Thunderbirds, Town Cars and GTs is getting a $1.5 billion facelift. Two investors — Extreme Power of Austin, Tex., and Clairvoyant Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif. — plan to hire 4,000 workers by late 2011 to make solar panels and battery systems for utilities.

“As the alternative-energy space builds out, we expect these plants will create a lot of opportunities for Michigan suppliers,” says Greg Main, the chief executive of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s investment promotion agency. Mr. Main estimates that at least 100 auto suppliers already have secured contracts in other industries and that at least 250 have bid for work.

Federal and state tax credits, loan guarantees and grants certainly help stimulate investment. But the main allure of the Detroit area is its ability to quickly turn designs into workable products that can be economically mass-produced. The region remains the country’s premier precision manufacturing base, with 2,500 auto suppliers and tens of thousands of highly skilled, underemployed mechanical engineers, machinists and factory managers.

“We have the best manufacturing resources on the planet here in Michigan,” says Chris Long, the founder and chief executive of Global Wind Systems. “We just need to get aligned.”

IN 1981, W Industries was founded by Robert Walker, Edward’s father, to make wooden crates used to ship car windshields and windows. It eventually expanded into a wide range of machine tools and metal parts for car frames and bodies.

The younger Mr. Walker, a 42-year-old with a fondness for wearing black, started working on the shop floor as a teenager and took the helm in 1993. To give the company a distinctive look, he adopted a bold red “W” logo and had all the buildings redone in red and black.

The only way W Industries could grow, Mr. Walker soon concluded, was to diversify. He started with military contracts. By law, most of the work must be done on American soil. And by manufacturing within Detroit’s city limits, W Industries benefits from federal policies requiring that a certain portion of military contracts be given to companies in depressed areas.

Another lure is abundant and cheap industrial space. Mr. Walker says he spent around $20 a square foot to buy and upgrade factories from bankrupt auto suppliers, about one-fifth of the cost of new buildings.

Since landing its first military contract in 2004, the company has secured jobs to make hundreds of heavy steel parts for the frames, bodies and gun mounts of vehicles like the Stryker and the mine-resistant Cougar, both made by General Dynamics. Demand for such vehicles surged as the military sought to replace Humvees, which proved vulnerable to roadside bombs.

Such work “requires a different mind-set and an entirely different way of operating your business,” Mr. Walker says.

Rather than cranking out high volumes of parts for years, jobs come in small batches and are highly customized. Each month, for example, W Industries builds a dozen 25,000-pound frames for rough-terrain military vehicles that the Kalmar Corporation, based in San Antonio, builds for the Army.

To win such business, W Industries has spent $50 million on modern machinery since 2006. The mold for the Airbus sections, which it is building for Spirit AeroSystems of Kansas, is being made with one of the world’s largest computer-controlled machine tools. It moves along a 200-foot-long rail shaving steel to create a super-polished surface. Spirit selected W Industries largely because it offered “an attractive combination of fabrication and expertise,” says Ken Evans, a Spirit spokesman.

W Industries also got the Orion simulator project in part because it was one of the few companies in the United States with the right equipment. The Orion space program aims to send human explorers to the moon by 2020 and then to Mars and beyond. But NASA hasn’t built a space capsule since the Apollo program ended in 1975.

Five years ago, W Industries had $15 million in annual sales. This year, it expects at least $150 million, two-thirds of it from military and aerospace contractors. It has bought three old factories in the area and is looking for more, and it plans to double its work force to 500 by 2011.

Dowding Industries, a family-owned company in Eaton Rapids, is also wagering its future on diversification. It was founded in 1965 as a tool-and-die shop for Oldsmobile and later expanded into metal auto parts. The company branched out into tractor and rail car parts in the 1990s, as the Big Three pinched costs to compete with overseas rivals and “started getting real brutal” on suppliers, says Jeff Metts, Dowding’s president.

He said that after Dowding had invested in new machine tools and perfected a part, the work was often shifted to China six months later. “There seemed to be a real effort to remove our profit,” Mr. Metts recalls.

In 2006, he attended a wind-power trade show in Los Angeles. “We were really shocked at how big this industry was becoming,” he says. That year, Dowding won a $5 million contract from Clipper Turbine Works of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Other wind customers followed.

After the recent recession, in which it laid off 130 of its 280 workers, Dowding made a bigger bet on wind, forming a venture with MAG Industrial Automation Systems in Sterling Heights to develop tools for turbine components.

MAG also makes machines used to fabricate carbon-composite airframes for planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In October, the venture will introduce a system that Mr. Metts says can make better-performing wind turbine hubs in one-fifth the time of current methods.

The next goal is a machine for carbon-composite blades that, he says, will be 30 percent lighter than fiberglass blades and last 20 years or longer. Mr. Metts says Dowding has commitments from several turbine makers, and he sees opportunities to use similar machines and technologies for bridges, expressways and ships — for which production methods and materials haven’t changed much in decades.

“This will be as big as the shift from metal to plastics,” Mr. Metts says.

The need to turn prototypes into real products is what lured NTR to the Detroit area. The company, based in Dublin, is installing the first 60 of its SunCatcher dishes, which cost $50,000 to $60,000 each, in Phoenix. If all of its solar-plant deals with California and Texas utilities are completed, it expects to sell 65,000 of them over the next two years.

In 2008, NTR’s manufacturing arm, Stirling Energy Systems, hired Tower Automotive in Novi to develop modules with mirrors that will reflect the sun’s energy. It also enlisted McLaren in Livonia to help design and build the motorized units that will convert concentrated sunlight into electricity. Founded in 1969 by Bruce McLaren, the New Zealand-born auto racer, and bought in 2003 by Linamar of Canada, the firm is best known for developing turbocharged engines for race cars.

Five years ago, all of McLaren’s business was with carmakers. Now, nearly a third is in developing motorized devices for the solar and wind industries. McLaren’s engineering team redesigned the SunCatcher engine and each of its 100 parts to make them more efficient, less expensive and easier to mass-produce.

“We put everything on a wall,” recalls Phil Guys, McLaren’s president. “We got 500 suggestions from engineers.”

McLaren has shipped its first batch of power-conversion units to Stirling and is developing new prototypes.

A BIG question is whether the new work will sustain Detroit’s manufacturing ecosystem if auto assembly keeps migrating elsewhere. As suppliers close, more managers and engineers could move away.

To illustrate how difficult that talent would be to replace, Bud Kimmel, vice president for business development at W Industries, points out Jason Sobieck. A 30-year-old machining whiz sporting a green tattoo, gray T-shirt and jeans, Mr. Sobieck manages the Spirit and Orion projects.

“Jason is like an artist,” Mr. Kimmel says. “We built our whole program around him.”

Mr. Sobieck began work at 17 at a small Detroit welding shop. He then worked for tooling companies, where he learned to program automated systems and manage projects. “These skills really aren’t taught in school,” Mr. Sobieck says, dragging on a cigarette. “This is a trade you learn on the shop floor.”

That’s one reason that W Industries wants to snap up as many good machinists and engineers as it can afford.

“If we don’t re-engage the automotive workers soon in major programs,” Mr. Kimmel says, “this set of skills will be lost.”

Incentives Bring 5,000 Jobs to Michigan


A series of companies are bringing more than 5,000 jobs to Michigan, thanks to the help of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Governor Jennifer Granholm announced the initiative today saying "The scope of these projects demonstrate that Michigan has exactly what companies are looking for as they choose where to locate and grow their business — an aggressive economic growth strategy, a competitive business climate, innovative economic development tools and an outstanding workforce. If companies are looking to invest and create jobs, we want them to know that Michigan is a great state to do business."

The companies were won over by incentives that were approved by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. They include alternative energy products manufacturer BioDri, which is planning a facility in Blissfield. Another company coming to Michigan is ilumisys, a spinoff of Altair Engineering that is eyeing a Troy location.

Fiat Holdings subsidiary Magneti Marelli Holding USA will use the incentives to consolidate there Michigan operations at one facility and expand their Auburn Hills facility. Colwell & Salmon Communications is looking to expand its Livonia call center, while Quality Metalcraft will also invest in the city by building a facility to design and manufacture aerodynamic fairings.

Other companies that will take advantage of the incentives are Tata Consultancy Services and AxleTech LLC. Wyandotte will also be able to use the incentives. The city is looking a redevelop a half-acre on Biddle Avenue.
Detroit Hockey Association (DHA) will host the Hockey in the Hood VI (HITH 6) tournament from February 12-14, 2010.

HITH is the largest tournament to celebrate diversity in the sport of hockey.  This annual event brings over 300 youth to Detroit from various cities throughout MI and across the USA for a weekend of friendship, fun and hockey. “It is unbelievable that we are now in our sixth year” said William McCants, Detroit Hockey Association President, “It is truly a great opportunity for all the kids.”

The Hockey in the Hood weekend begins Friday February 12th with “Outside Classic” games played outdoors at Clark Park in southwest Detroit (1130 Clark Street, Detroit, MI) from 12:00 noon – 6:00 PM.   Games will also be played on Saturday at Clark Park and Jack Adams Memorial Arena at the Adams/ Butzel Center (10500 Lyndon, Ave, Detroit Mi  48238).  Please see schedule information and more details at

The guest of honor, Mr. Willie O’Ree will be on hand all weekend.  O’Ree is the NHL Director of Youth Development and Ambassador for NHL Diversity.  He was the first black player in the NHL and broke the color barrier with the Boston Bruins in 1958.  O’Ree will present the HITH 6 Championship Trophy the “Willie O’Cup”  named in his honor to the winning teams on Sunday afternoon at Jack Adams Arena.

The Detroit Hockey Association thanks all its sponsors and volunteers including the NHL “Hockey is for Everyone” program, the City of Detroit Recreation Department, the Detroit Red Wings, and Wal-Mart.

For more information call DHA Secretary Cynthia Wardlaw at 313-727-7330 or DHA President Will McCants at 313-815-9278

The Detroit Hockey Association (DHA) is an amateur, non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax exempt youth ice hockey organization based at Jack Adams Arena in Detroit, MI. The DHA has focused on building the character of metro Detroit youth for over 30 years. Its motto, “Where goals are achieved, not just scored” guides the association.

Nearly two dozen local businesses have come together for a new bridal event that puts the spotlight on wedding goods and services based in Milford and the surrounding areas.

 “Marry Me in Milford,” a unique bridal show, is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21 at Bakers of Milford, located at 2025 S. Milford Rd.

Attendees will enjoy door prizes, a fashion show and live hair and makeup tutorials.

The show will feature regional retailers and artisans – from photographers to bakers, a feather bouquet company and more.

“We wanted to highlight quality, unique products and services we know our local brides-and grooms-to-be will absolutely love,” said Gina Salaski of Gina’s Bridal, the show’s co-presenter along with Posh Hair and Makeup Studio. “All vendors at the show have been invited by us or recommended by someone we regularly work with and they will give the brides the attention they deserve.”

Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit or call Gina's Bridal at 248.684.4462 or Posh Hair and Makeup Studio at 248.685.1560.

Featured companies include:
Gina's Bridal Boutique
Posh Hair and Makeup Studio
Bakers of Milford
Rottermond Jewelers
The Clothing Cove
Acorn Farm
The Source Skincare
Sweet & Savory Bakery
Sweet Retreats chocolates
The Milford Bakery
Main Street Art
Barb Young Jewelry
Arbie Goodfellow Accessories
Chivari Chair Rentals
Jamie Honce Productions
Jewel Kade Jewelry
The Pastry Palace
Diad Designs
Mobile Rhythms
Nicole Ladonne
Diamond White
...and more to come!

The Detroit Red Wings are a socially savvy bunch. The NHL team recently started including QR codes in their in-arena distributed Red Wings Today program, and the effort is proving to be a big hit with fans in attendance.

After seeing Esquire’s use of augmented reality, the team decided to get creative and make their print program interactive (embedded below) to include digital media accessible via QR codes.

The codes in question appear in the program and include a prominent call to action that reads, “Smartphone interactive, scan here.” A mobile device scan of the QR code brings up the following video for fans to watch instantly:

Instead of letting fans figure out QR codes on their own (a rather complicated concept to people unfamiliar with the technology), the team got smart and put together an instructional video that now airs on the big screen during games. That video can be seen below:

What’s more important is that the experimental approach to a traditionally old-fashioned print publication is paying off big-time. Fans are actually using QR code bar scanners on their mobile devices to access the video, and sticking around to enjoy it. The Red Wings’ Social Networking Coordinator Nicole Yelland tells us (bolded for emphasis):

“In tracking this effort, the Wings have found mobile devices to be the #1 viewing medium fans are using to see videos accounting for an overwhelming 22% of fans viewing linked videos nearly 2,000 times all the way through. We’re very excited at the possibilities this technology provides our team in giving more access and we’ve only just begun to tap into the capabilities it provides us in both marketing to our fans and giving them exactly what they are asking for in terms of access to their team.

Moving forward, we’re looking to create exclusive video content that is complimentary to stories included in the magazine, create opportunities for our advertisers to include offers in their ads via QR codes and put our fans in the driver’s seat when it comes to giving them information on the Detroit Red Wings.”

We’ve seen plenty of impressive social media sports initiatives (especially around the Super Bowl), but this has got to be one of the most innovative approaches to driving home the connection between the team, its fans, online content and the in-game experience.

Last night, my good friend Stephen Roginson and Royal Oak resident bobbed his way to victory on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

P.S.  Ladies, he's single
Please come and show your love for homeless teens February 13 during Valentines weekend. 

Covenant House Michigan will host an open house and encourages visitors to bring or mail-in a Valentine card with a donation of 14 dollars that will help keep homeless youth warm this winter. 

Meet our young people, learn more about our programs, sign up to volunteer, tours our campus, and take a ride-along-tour in our Outreach Van to see some of the areas where homeless young people frequent. Make a difference by showing your love for just one kid this Valentines season.

WHEN:             Saturday, February 13, 2010 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

WHERE:           Covenant House Michigan
                       2959 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd Detroit, MI 48208

Covenant House Michigan helps thousands of homeless and at-risk young people every year. In addition to food and shelter, Covenant House provides preparation for the GED exam, job development services and crisis intervention to its residents and other young people. 

The agency operates an outreach van that drives through metro Detroit-area neighborhoods and offers on the spot assistance to homeless and other needy youth. Through a partnership with the Detroit Public School, Covenant House Michigan opened three second chance high schools to offer dropouts and at-risk youth the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma rather than a GED. 

For more information on Covenant House Michigan, call (313) 463-2000 or

On Saturday, February 27th, from 9-11PM, area bloggers and social-media enthusiasts will step out from behind the safety of their monitors and iPhones to face off at Birmingham Racquet Club.

For a group of Detroiters accustomed to scrapping out turf in the cyber world by skillfully lobbing poignant barbs, placing the perfect spin on headlines and relying on the fastest servers, the opportunity to see who rises to the top in a face-to-face battle of good ole' fashion trash talk was too much to resist.

All proceeds from the event will go to The Dictionary Project, an Operation: Kid Equip collaboration with and Local Female Bloggers, to help complete the mission of putting a dictionary in the hands of 25 % of Oakland County School District's 3rd graders.

"We firmly believe in the power of words—help us put power in every child's hands."

Sign up here to play, attend, support or sponsor Word-Up. You may as well, cuz if you don't, we'll just talk trash about you anyway.

*Warning: Trash talk will be flying at this event, and is more than likely to land out of bounds at times. All attendees, playing or not, should arrive with well-padded egos.


How it will work is...

Each court will play doubles for 20 minutes, then rotate up the river/down the rivers style and record the amount of games they won.

At the end of the 2 hours, we will add up all of the game totals and the players with the highest scores (winners can be on any court) will win a prize or some trash talk from the non-winners!

Theme is Stylish 70's Athletic Wear (not required, but strongly encouraged)

Note Photos on our Facebook Event for Inspiration

Prize will be awarded for Best Costume at event

Tennis and Spectator Spots are Limited and on a First Come, First Serve Basis.

Ticket Type:

Racquet-Wielding Word Warrior (aka tennis player) $20

Sideline Mudslinger (aka onlooker) $10

Benevolent Benefactor $30
(aka gets you in the door as a
sideline mudslinger + a shiny pin
that lets everyone know you're a high-roller)

Anonymous Benefactor (aka you're above
attending plebeian events, but would
like to contribute to the cause)

After party location will be announced during event

Click Here to Sign-Up!
Erin Rose
Positive Detroit

Contrary to what the popular song “delicately” implies, ONE is NOT the loneliest number that you could ever be.  In fact, it has quite a few perks. Really, I swear.  So, put that raised cynical brow back in its happy place (in order to delay those "business lunches" with your Dermatologist for those pesky and pricey Botox injections) and read on.

For just short of three years, I have been happily single. Yeah, that’s right, the single girl is writing an article about how you too should embrace your single-status.  Now, I promise I'm not pimping myself out with this admittance, although if I do gain a boyfriend from this article, it would make my mother very happy (that's for you ma!).  So when one of my close married friends mentioned the below article over dinner this past week, the idea for this blog post was born.

But first, I must make use of this soapbox for a few more sentences.  There’s the disclaimer.  Oh and one more thing, I don’t have any degrees in psychology.  Just life experience.

I hear stories constantly of women who beat themselves up because they aren’t in a relationship, or married, or have children.  You know what I say to that? "Boo Hoo. Get over it!"  Yes, I do take the tough love approach, but reaaaaallllllly, please explain the benefits of being depressed over not sharing an “us” label with someone else.  And this goes for EVERYONE, Men included. Just because the media/advertising industry's target audience neglects you lately, doesn't require that you fall for their trap and feel sorry for yourself. Remember, they want people to be in relationships on Feb. 14th because that's how they make $$$.  The more couples, the more $$$.  Think about it.  I know it's Valentine's Day, but retailers want to be in the black, not the red.

So, let’s have a Dr. Phil get real moment, shall we?  Do you honestly believe focusing day in and day out on what you don’t have and beating yourself up for it is how you visualize living your life?  HELL NO!  So, embrace your opportunities, enjoy your freedom, and BE HAPPY. Define yourself for being you, not because of your relationship status or lack there of.  So at this very moment, ixnay the self-loathing for being sans partner, especially on Valentine’s Day.  Remember this holiday is to celebrate LOVE, including love for one's self. And again this holiday lasts one day, O-N-E D-A-Y people.

Onward and Forward
Below is the article from my dear friend Alexandra.  No Kleenex required.

No tacky pressies
Being single means that you don't have to pretend to like the cheap chocolates, flowers or teddy bear that your other half coughs up. You know those gifts, the ones that leave you with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you realise that this person doesn't really know you at all.

Being single also means that you don't have to shell out your hard-earned cash on tat. Singletons relax while others are hunting for a late-night petrol station selling limp flowers.  Spend the money you save on a pressie for yourself. There's no gift quite as good as the one you pick yourself, whether it be a facial, a haircut, or a good DVD.

To Russia with love
Alternatively, save up for a plane ticket to Russia.  On March 8 every year, all women are given flowers, chocolate and a day off work, just for being female.  We like Russia.

It's cool to be single
Valentine's Day singles are the trendsetters.  Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people choosing to stay single has reached record levels.  The UK is now home to more than 1.65m single men and 1.27m women.  Good news for flirty girls!

Single people have busier social lives than couples, according to Edinburgh University researchers.  We may not get a tacky teddy on 14 February (shame), but we're having more parties.

Better to be single than an unhappy couple
Remind yourself that coupledom does not guarantee happiness.  Valentine's Day means stress for a lot of couples, with worries about what to buy and whether their other half will remember.  Being single is less lonely than being unhappily attached.

Your day is your own.  You can get up when you want (having spent the whole night asleep because you weren't lying next to a snorer), come home when you want, eat what you want, watch what you want on the telly and go to bed when you want.  Try to find a repeat of Wife Swap on V-Day.  Seeing those coupled-up nightmares yelling at each other should bring some comfort.

Enjoy being different
Have you ever tried going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day?  It's not dinner for two, it's the feeding of the 5,000 - in every restaurant in town.

Romance is about spontaneity and imagination, and Valentine's Day can have nothing to do with those things. Psychologist Dr Laura Brown of Seattle's Argosy University says: 'Love is not about a particular day, or cards or flowers, or even being in a relationship.  Seeing the illusory nature of this holiday can be the first step in feeling better about it.'

Celebrate friendships
Valentine's Day is the perfect day to celebrate friendship.  The love you give to and receive from friends will last longer than most romantic love or lust.  Arrange a single's Valentine's party with a group of single friends, male and female. You can bet that there'll be at least one new couple by the end of the evening.

It is a surprisingly good time to flirt with fellow singles.  Valentine's Day and the impending joys of spring bring lots of singles out of the woodwork.

So use today as a kick-start to getting out there.  Just don't fall into the mindset that you have to be in a couple to be happy.

Start meeting other single people near you for fun, love or romance.
So, you may be curious as to what this gal is doing for her Valentine's Day 2010.  She's heading north to a ski lodge with 10 of her friends.  Some are married, some in relationships, some single.  Most important, lots of fun.

With that said, I wish everyone a happy, full-filled, and adventurous Valentine's Day 2010!

P.S. Do you have a great idea on how to spend this year's Valentine's Day in Detroit?  Don't be shy and click on the "comment" tab below!

P.P.S Are you a Swingin' Single ready to mingle and happen to live in the Mitten State?  Click Here


A new study has confirmed that Travel Michigan's first-ever national ad campaign with its "Pure Michigan" theme continues to deliver a significant return on investment.

The study, by Longwoods International, a research firm specializing in tourism advertising return on investment, found that the campaign last spring and summer motivated 680,000 new trips to Michigan from outside the Great Lakes region.

Those visitors spent $250 million at Michigan businesses last summer as a direct result of the Travel Michigan advertising program. In addition, these new out-of-state visitors paid $17.5 million in state taxes while in Michigan, yielding a $2.23 return on investment for the tourism advertising.

Pure Michigan television commercials aired nationally 7,900 times on 15 cable channels in 2009, and they were seen by an estimated 60 million Americans from coast to coast.

"The Pure Michigan campaign is motivating travelers from all over the United States to choose Michigan as a destination, helping diversify and grow our economy," said Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm. "Now millions more know about our sandy beaches along America's longest fresh-water coastline, our natural and recreational areas, and the vibrancy and culture of our great cities. The 2009 national Pure Michigan campaign is the first step toward Michigan being recognized as one of America's top vacation destinations."

In addition, the study also determined the effectiveness of the campaign on the regional level. Longwoods International assessed the impact of the 2009 Pure Michigan summer advertising on the residents of the Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Ontario, Canada markets. The focus of the study was to quantify the levels of travel generated by the advertising and the economic impact of that travel. The Pure Michigan campaign was able to improve its regional return on investment from $2.86 since 2004 to $5.34 in 2009.

"Combining our national and regional advertising last spring and summer, the Pure Michigan campaign motivated two million trips to Michigan from out of state last summer, and those new visitors spent more than $500 million at Michigan businesses," said George Zimmermann, vice president for Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. "But these very positive results will be fleeting if we do not adequately fund national and regional Pure Michigan advertising in 2010 and beyond."

The total tourism promotion budget for all seasons in 2009 was $30 million, which ranked Michigan as the sixth largest state tourism promotion budget in America. The current appropriation for tourism promotion in 2010 is $5.4 million, which would reduce Michigan's state tourism budget ranking to approximately 42nd in the nation.

For more information visit
Terry Parris Jr.
Model D

The French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, with a small group of settlers and soldiers, looked out onto the Detroit River more than 300 years ago and saw opportunity. From the position of the river to the fertile land, they imagined that a settlement could grow from this location.

"The land is very beautiful and appropriate to build a city later on," wrote Cadillac in a letter to the French minister responsible for the Detroit colonies. "The various things one finds in this Land make it very pleasant."

Three centuries later, Detroit has another Frenchman looking out at that same river, with that same vision.

From the 17th floor of Spinnaker Tower, just off East Jefferson, Laurent Diemunsch is standing in the living room of his newly purchased two-bedroom high-rise apartment. The Detroit River and Belle Isle are beaming through a foggy sliding glass door to the balcony.

"I see that the future can be better here," he says, slowly, looking for the words.

The apartment isn't for him to live in, though. He bought it to rent out; he bought it as an investment. Diemunsch isn't an investor in the sense that you might think. He's not buying 100 foreclosures and selling them on Craigslist. He's a flight attendant, who happens to own an apartment in the Spinnaker and another in New Center, on Pallister. And he already has a tenant.

Diemunsch may be less tuned in with honest to goodness investors and more in step with his compatriot Mr. Cadillac. The two Frenchman both saw not only opportunity but also potential and a future in the wilderness off the banks of a river.

"I can see what this city can become," Diemunsch says, unknowingly paraphrasing from Cadillac's letters.

Yet the headlines about Detroit overseas (or anywhere for that matter) aren't exactly golden. In fact, according to Diemunsch, they are terrible. So, how did this French flight attendant with spiky, jet-black hair end up roaming the streets of Detroit? Well, the Internet, naturally, and a local French speaking real estate agent, Sabra Sanzotta, whose husband also hails from France.

"I saw Detroit on the Internet, I saw some really bad things," Diemunsch says. We can all imagine what those "things" were. "Then I made some research and it wasn't like that. I came to Detroit (to meet with Sanzotta). I saw downtown Detroit, some of the neighborhoods. I thought it was beautiful. It was impressive to me."

So impressive that Diemunsch brought some back up on his most recent visit. In tow was his father, Jean Claude, a fellow flight attendant, Nathalie Krief, and Krief's brother, Nimrod. And the French entourage kept busy. Jean Claude closed on one property at St. Anne's Gate and has another offer pending in New Center. And Nimrod has an accepted offer at Spinnaker, which should close sometime this month.  Sanzotta, who will act as the property manager for these spaces, says they should have tenants six weeks after closing.

Let's not kid ourselves. Though Diemunsch and his posse aren't big time rollers, flipping houses like a short order cook flips flapjacks, they're still trying to make a buck. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, Sanzotta says.

Now there are fewer foreclosed, empty condos in Detroit, more renovated upscale rental properties available for those who want to live downtown, and more homeowner dues coming in to the developments, she says, "which in turn keeps the maintenance up and the resale value spiraling upwards. Plus, as they keep drying up the inventory, (there will be) more demand for fewer properties." That would help prices recover.

However, right now, Detroit property is cheap. Not just cheap, it's really, really cheap, and abundant. The Euro is stronger than the dollar and that bodes well for foreign investors, including French flight attendants, and the fathers and brothers of said flight attendants. They can pick up property along the riverfront or right downtown for the price of a small car. Something that, in other cities – like Paris or London or New York – is impossible.

Flags might already be going off and some of you are probably saying to yourself, "But Detroit isn't Paris or London or New York. They are completely different markets."

"Foreigners have a different mindset (when it comes to real estate)," says real estate broker Joy Santiago. "People in the tri-county area see these property values every day and compare them to their own. But if you compare them to New York City's riverfront or Chicago's riverfront, there's a definite difference." And a definite draw, she says.

Santiago says the perception of Detroit's real estate is totally different from across the pond. In urban centers in foreign cities, properties are either outrageously expensive or, as they are passed from family to family, nonexistent.

Even though property can be had for a song in other parts of the United States, real estate investment is still coming to Detroit.

"Investors see the potential of growth (in Detroit), not decline," she says.

"I think it's a symbol of hope," Sanzotta says. "Coming half way around the world, investing on the potential of Detroit, when some won't even come down here for dinner, it's inspiring."

One thing you get from the flight attendants is that they talk about and see Detroit as a commodity, a place to go, to be. As flight attendants, they see hundreds of cities a year, so it would seem that they would know a cool place when they see it.

"This is my first time in Detroit," says Nathalie, Diemunsch's fellow flight attendant. "But what I see here is people willing to take risks on Detroit's potential. I feel new life here in Detroit. Nice people, new neighborhoods, and good rentability. There's a bourgeois bohemian lifestyle here."

Bourgeois bohemian?

"Yeah," she says. "It's a good thing."

Andrea Blum
The News Herald 

Cameras are done rolling on the first feature film completed by students at the Lifton Institute for Media Skills.

“Blindsided,” a 90-minute student film done in the vein of the Coen Brothers, follows two criminals trying to carry out a get-rich-quick scheme.

Through a turn of events, they take a magician hostage and find out much of what’s been going on has been a series of illusions.

“There are some dramatic moments and some lighthearted moments,” director Doug Raine said.

“It’s all local actors and they’ve just been phenomenal. And the students working as crew are fantastic.

“The thing I love most is their enthusiasm. It’s a completely different lifestyle for most of them but they took to it so well.”

The Allen Park school provides career training for all aspects of trades in the film and television industries. Classes began in October.

More than 100 students ranging from college-age to in their 50s and 60s collaborated on the full-length feature film. Many hail from Downriver, but some come as far away as Port Huron and Novi.

“A lot of them are in editorial, picture and sound editing,” Raine said.

The group is part of the school’s first class enrolled in the roughly 12-week program.

Each student chooses a specialized career track from among the production, art, sound, editorial or camera, light and grip departments.

After graduation, students receive a certificate, and more importantly, an actual feature film credit.

“The goal of the whole thing is to give them the experience,” Raine said.

And the first class seems to be learning the business’ ins-and-outs quickly, according to Raine.

“They’re coming up with their own ideas and asking things like, ‘what if we shoot it this way?’” he said.

“As the director, I’m very happy with how it’s coming about.”

As many as a dozen already have gone out to work on other independent film projects.

After completing the program, the school’s placement center will help students craft resumes and give them a heads-up on upcoming local projects.

Instructors also will use their industry contacts to help students find work.

Raine, a Wyandotte native, brings a range of film experience to his role as director and one of the school’s instructors.

After graduating from the film and TV program at Northern Arizona University, he got his first big break working on the 1984 John Carpenter movie “Starman,” and has worked in various producing and directing roles in movies since.

“I’ve probably done between 35 and 40 projects between TV and movies,” he said.

His projects range from independent films to big budget movies with A-list actors such as Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.

Having spent years living in Arizona and California, Raine came back to Michigan in October 2009 to work in the emerging movie industry here.

He recently completed his own horror film, acting as writer, producer and director.

“I’ve used some clips from the film to show the students how to do everything from inception to post-production,” he said.

Shooting on “Blindsided” began in mid-December and wrapped up Saturday after taking place at a variety of Downriver locations, including Heritage Park, the Park Theater in Lincoln Park and the Best Western Greenfield Inn in Allen Park.

“We’re doing all-day shoots — maybe not quite as long as a typical film — but we’re trying to put them through some rigorous experiences,” Raine said.

Shooting would begin between 7 and 8 a.m. each day with the actors coming in and production staff putting them through makeup, hair and wardrobe.

The crew would start working on lighting and camera moves, then each scene would be covered and close-ups would be done.

“It’s all really collaborative,” he said. “One of the things we’re teaching is how to do certain cuts and angles to make you think something’s happening that’s not really happening.”

Working outside, the production was regulated by sunlight hours but also did some shots at night using a generator and lighting equipment.

“That gave them the experience of creating light,” he said.

After editing is completed, Raine said there are several avenues to explore with the film.

“We’ll send it to some film festivals and might use it as a calling card for what we can do with the students,” he said. “The distributor of my horror movie also is interested in seeing it.”

Greg Pitoniak, 26, of Taylor, served as a location manager on the production.

The laid-off logistics worker said he decided to venture into the movie-making industry after being unable to land another job in his field.

“This is kind of a new thing for me,” he said. “I never really had aspirations to be in the movie industry but it sounded interesting and exciting.”

As location manager, Pitoniak was responsible for scouting filming sites and setting up the necessary permits with local officials.

“Once I got the script, I worked with the director to get an idea of what kind of locations he was looking for,” he said.

“For example, we were filming at a historic house so I scouted a bunch of houses, took pictures, showed them to the director, then did all the legwork setting them up.”

One of the challenges proved to be working with local officials who’d never had a film crew working in their city before.

“Some didn’t have filming permits or weren’t sure how to handle the movie industry filming in their city,” he said.

“It was a bit of a challenge to work through, but all the cities have been extremely helpful and cooperative. They were excited for us to be there.”

After he completes the program, Pitoniak said he hopes to start off working as a location scout, and then move on to be a location manager and eventually a producer.

“The whole program and the way it’s designed give you a good idea of all the different jobs that go into making a movie,” he said.

For Susan Blake, 38, of Taylor, enrolling in the school’s production management track was a big change from her last two years spent as a teaching assistant with the Taylor School District.

“I was laid off two years ago, got with the No Worker Left Behind program, saw this and thought it was my calling,” Blake said.

“I got experience in just about everything. I did some assistant directing and worked as production coordinator.”

She believes the work fully prepared her for a career in the state’s burgeoning movie industry.

“It really was life experience, not just a class,” Blake said. “We shot a movie and got out there to do the work. It entrenched us in all different aspects of the film industry.”

Both Blake and Pitoniak said they’re planning to stay in Michigan to work in film.

“I’m definitely hoping to stay in Michigan,” Pitoniak said. “That’s the advantage of being a location manager. I already know what the communities have to offer, the type of architecture and locations.

“When productions come from L.A., they’re looking for local people to guide them through.”

Achatz Handmade Pie Co. and the Detroit Lions are teaming up to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief.

From noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, Detroit Lions Players will meet and greet customers at various area Achatz Handmade Pie Shops.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., customers will also receive a free slice of pie or a hot bowl of soup to-go with a donation of $10 or more. Donations will be collected at all six Achatz Pie locations, as well as Achatz Catering and Soups from Skratzch in Adair, Mich.

All proceeds will benefit The Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund in Haiti. Go online at for details.

Detroit Lions player appearances at:

Troy Pie Shop, 1063 E. Long Lake Rd. – Nick Harris
Sterling Heights Pie Shop, 35736 Van Dyke – Jason Hanson
Shelby Pie Shop, 46575 Hayes Rd. – Jared DeVries
Oxford Pie Shop, 40 N. Washington – Luther Elliss
Grand, romantic gifts and sweet little sentiments should be as unique as the recipient, so skip the malls and big box stores this Valentine’s Day and try giving a gift that gives back.

 WWJ Newsradio 950 and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) are launching an online auction to raise donations to help local families keep warm this winter. All auction proceeds will benefit the 7th Annual Winter Survival Radiothon for THAW and there are dozens of items available that would make the perfect Valentine’s surprise. Samplings of ideas are listed below. All items are available for bid from Feb. 2-11 at

For the Romantic:

Learn to cook as a couple with a cooking class for two from J. Baldwin’s Restaurant & Premier Catering.

Travel to Boyne Highlands Resort to enjoy a ski package including one night’s lodging, a pair of unlimited lift tickets and breakfast for two.

Take dance lessons with a four-session package from Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

Check out dozens of additional gift certificates from area restaurants to theaters available for grabs.

 For the Single and Ready to Mingle:

Laugh yourself silly with 10 admissions to Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in downtown Royal Oak.

Gather 10 friends for a walking bar tour of Detroit (tour provided by Inside Detroit).

Roller skate your worries away with 10 friends, courtesy of Skate World of Troy.

Enjoy a private wine tasting and tour with 12 friends at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery in Traverse City.

For Families:

Have a musical experience with 4 admission tickets to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cuddle up to a new furry friend with a $300 certificate toward a puppy or $100 toward supplies from Petland in Twelve Oaks Mall.

Bid to win other great gifts for the whole family including tickets to the Detroit Zoo, Ann Arbor’s Hands On Museum or to see “Elmo’s Green Thumb” live at the Fox Theater.

 If you bid and win any of these items, not only will your friends or sweetie be impressed with your gift, but you will feel great knowing that the money was spent on a great cause!

THAW is an independent non-profit agency that provides low-income individuals and families throughout Michigan with emergency energy assistance and advocates for long-term solutions to energy issues. Since its inception in 1985, Detroit-based THAW has provided $83 million in assistance to more than 135,000 Michigan households, including elderly, unemployed, underemployed and disabled individuals who found themselves in temporary crisis. During the 2008-2009 heating season, THAW distributed $14,772,775 in energy assistance to more than 11,000 households. THAW has been awarded a Four Star Charity Rating (the highest) by Charity Navigator for the past six years.